The OpenStreetMap community now intends to use its open data model to map the Amazon region with greater accuracy than is currently available. The Mapazonia project team believe their efforts will support the work of environmental organisations.

OpenStreetMap hopes to map Amazonia from crowdsourced data

The Amazon region, extending over 6.7 million km2 and reaching into nine different countries, is still today difficult to document and map. Now the collaborative OpenStreetMap community has set itself the goal of completing the geospatial picture of this remote region of the world by drawing together crowdsourced data.

Founded in 2004 by British by computer engineer Steve Coast, OpenStreetMap (OSM) works along the same lines for maps as Wikipedia does for general information. OSM is run entirely in open data mode, enabling users to contribute to all kinds of free mapping projects. Users agree to supply cartographic data free of charge under the Open Database License, a ‘Share Alike’ license agreement designed to allow users to freely share, modify and use a database and to maintain this same freedom for others. This agreement contrasts with for example the Google Earth terms and conditions, which allow users only to view the images.

OSM announced recently that the Latin American team was to launch a Mapazonia project. Currently only the main rivers and a number of villages in the Amazonian region are listed in the OSM database. The initial list of tasks to be tackled by contributors who are in a position to provide satellite images of rivers and roads centres on the areas of Amazonia located in Brazil and Bolivia.

The OSM blog explains that ‘Mapazonia’ could be of great help to environmental and government bodies across the Amazon region. In addition, should a natural disaster occur, the data gathered from the various contributors could prove extremely useful in protecting local nature and safeguarding biodiversity.

The OSM open source global mapping project, which recorded its millionth user in early 2013, provides very useful information and is gaining ground as an alternative to existing commercially-published maps. Commercial publishers tend to have little or no interest in vast, remote zones like the Amazon region as sales of maps of these areas are unlikely to bring a satisfactory return on investment.

By Eliane HONG